According to the Times, Johnson wants to use the G7 summit in Cornwall this week to get agreement from the world’s biggest economies to support large-scale renewable energy projects across Africa and parts of Asia.
The proposal is modelled on the principles of the American Marshall plan which delivered billions of dollars of aid to Western Europe following the devastation of World War II. It also aims to be a green alternative to China’s Belt and Road initiative, which has provided strategic Chinese infrastructure investment to nearly 70 countries since 2013.
Described by the prime minister as the “clean green initiative”, it is seen as crucial to getting the backing of developing countries for an ambitious commitment to limit global warming to 1.5C when Britain hosts the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow in November, according to the Times.
Downing Street has written to Whitehall departments to draw up policy options for how the UK could contribute to such a fund. However, the Times says it understands the Treasury, so far, to be resisting any commitment to provide new UK money before the autumn spending review.
One government source told the Times that unless Johnson overruled Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, there was a risk that the initiative would be counterproductive and that developing countries would see it as an “empty promise”, making agreement in Glasgow less likely. “The critical factor at COP26 is going to be to get the so-called global south to put pressure on middle-income countries such as India, China and Brazil and not allow them to slow the process of reaching global net zero,” the source said.
“To do that, the West needs to come up with a meaningful package of support that includes some pretty serious amounts of money. Repurposing some existing development aid simply isn’t going to cut it.”
Another source, close to some of the COP26 delegations, said that there was concern internationally that China was getting more traction from governments in developing countries. “There is a feeling that the UK is not where it needs to be to get an ambitious agreement in November at this stage,” the source said. “The thing people forget about Cop26 is that it needs to be unanimous and that means building alliances. So far China appears to be doing that more effectively than the West.”
Johnson is understood to have told the Foreign Office, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Treasury to develop ideas to put to world leaders in Cornwall.